The Awakening of the West

Posted on April 21, 2010


Gandhara Buddha Statue

As a fitting first post, I would like to draw readers’ attention to this fantastic book and classic of religious history: “The Awakening of the West: The Encounter of Buddhism and Western Culture” by Stephen Batchelor (1994, Parallax Press).

From Greek kings to nineteenth-century adventurers, from missionaries to monks, the encounter of Buddhism and the West is filled with intriguing personalities.

The Awakening of the West is a beautifully written history of the encounters of Buddhism with the West during the past 2,000 years – a chronicle of missed opportunities, cultural arrogance, political tragedy, and unfulfilled dreams. Since the time of Alexander the Great, European kings and popes longed for the power to be gained through the conquest of Asia. They sent periodic streams of envoys and missionaries to establish contact with the “infidels,” but the Europeans’ narrow-mindedness prevented them from learning much at all about Buddhism. Until the past century, Western and Buddhist cultures remained largely ignorant of one another.

The book can be ordered from Amazon.

And much of it can be read online at Google Books.